Growing up, Eid at my grandmother’s apartment in Singapore meant family photos, eating the various dishes cooked by my grandmother, mother and aunts, and watching the rerun of the special Eid variety program on television.
Since I moved to the U.S in 2012, I have not had the opportunity to spend Ramadan or Eid with my grandmother and parents. I don’t like to travel during Ramadan as jetlag gets me tired and weary, distracting me from my worship goals.
This year, I had to travel just before Ramadan to be with my paternal grandmother. When I met her, a few days before Ramadan, we knew it could be her last Ramadan.
On the fourth day of the blessed month, my grandmother returned to Allah s.w.t. – but I had already flown back to Virginia.
As my body dealt with sleepiness from jet lag and travel, my heart thought that I was emotionally fine. After all, I was blessed to have been able to travel to see my late grandmother and even spent two nights by her side.
My grandmother was 91 years old. She was a mother to 11 children, 49 grandchildren and over 30 great grandchildren. She had passed during a blessed month. Solah, or prayer, was always foremost on her mind. As I recited Surah Yasin, she would join along despite her frail condition in her last few days in this temporal world.
Given all these blessings, I found myself finding Allah’s mercy showered upon me while being in a difficult situation. Filled with gratitude, I went about my Ramadan schedule- volunteering, fulfilling iftar invites and so on. It was only two weeks after her passing, as I pulled up in the parking lot of a local Muslim community center to prepare for a kids’ storytime, I broke down and cried.
Grief, it seems, can be sneaky. It creeps up on you unexpectedly. Being accepting or ridha with the passing of my grandmother didn’t mean that I would not experience grief. Sadness and grief are normal. And being grateful doesn’t negate emotions, and feeling sad is not a sign of low iman.
Tips from The Family and Youth Institute
According to The Family and Youth Institute, a US-based non-profit, grief might show up during Eid (or any festive season) in four ways:
A person who has lost a loved one may feel guilty for wanting to celebrate the holidays, and also guilty for being sad during the holidays. The former stems from a fear that the excitement means one has forgotten the loved one. Whereas the latter could be present itself if it’s been sometime since the loved one has passed.
Get support from a religious figure that you trust. As time passes, you may find be able to grow beyond your grief and experience other emotions, such as excitement in celebrating Eid, and that doesn’t mean you have forgotten those who have returned to Allah.
- Avoiding Feelings
Respond to your feelings, find a trusted companion or even engage a therapist to help you work through your grief. There are different stages of grief and identifying the phases you are in can help you.
- Pushing Memories Away
At times, we push beautiful memories away because of the pain of loss. Instead, we can channel this by choosing to donate on their behalf, or even making dua for them when we remember them. Visiting their grave is also another option.
- Wanting to Isolate
At times, having some space to yourself can help. If you do choose to have alone time, try to engage in activities such as making zikr, exercising or spending time in nature.
Power of Dua
Allah s.w.t. reminds us in the Quran:
الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَتَطْمَئِنُّ قُلُوبُهُم بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ ۗ أَلَا بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ
Those who believe and whose hearts find comfort in the remembrance of Allah. Surely in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find comfort.
(Surah Ar-Ra’d, 13:28)
Turning to dua can be a powerful tool, and one dua to help us ride the waves of sadness is:
اللَّهُمَّ إنِّي أعُوذُ بكَ مِنَ الهَمِّ والحَزَنِ، والعَجْزِ والكَسَلِ، والبُخْلِ والجُبْنِ، وضَلَعِ الدَّيْنِ، وغَلَبَةِ الرِّجَالِ
Allahumma inni a’oo-zu bika mi-nal-ham-mi wal-hazn, wa a’oo-zu bika mi-nal ‘aj-zi wal-ka-sal, wa a’oo-zu bika mi-nal jub-ni wal-bukhl, wa a’oo-zu bika min gaa-la-ba tid-daynee wa khah-rir-ri-jaal.
“O, Allah! I seek refuge with You from worry and grief, from incapacity and laziness, from cowardice and miserliness, from being heavily in debt and from being overpowered by (other) men.”
Source: Sahih al-Bukhari
While my family and I learn to work through our loss, I accept the emotions that come with it, but I realise that one shouldn’t sit and have coffee with your emotions.
What matters is the present, and the present is the time to create memories for the future.
I am thankful for the many beautiful memories of Eid at my grandmother’s house- the smell of Malay dishes in the kitchen, the sight of my cousins sitting around (sometimes counting Eidi money), lining up to kiss my grandmother and seek her forgiveness and the Eid songs playing from the TV show in the background.
Today, media providers like Qalbox, Muslim Pro’s streaming service that’s available on Apple TV allows families to choose appropriate and festive shows for Eid. So, what are the memories you’d like to create this Eid?